Species Profile

Northern Saw-whet Owl brooksi subspecies

Scientific Name: Aegolius acadicus brooksi
Taxonomy Group: Birds
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2017
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status Criteria: Meets Endangered, C2a(ii), but designated Threatened, C2a(ii), because this subspecies is not at risk of imminent extinction.
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This distinct subspecies endemic to Canada has a small population of fewer than 2000 breeding individuals, restricted to the islands of Haida Gwaii off the Pacific coast of British Columbia. It is a forest specialist, preferring older coniferous forests with abundant nesting snags and an open understory. Numbers of breeding birds are anticipated to further decline over the next 15 years as a consequence of ongoing forest harvesting. Other continuing low-level threats to this subspecies include problematic invasive, introduced and native species, accidental mortality from road collisions and effects of forest fires. As just over 70% of Haida Gwaii is now within protected areas reserved from forestry operations, including National Park Reserve, provincial park, and reserves under the Haida Gwaii Strategic Land Use Agreement, this subspecies is not at risk of imminent extinction.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Threatened in April 2006. Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2017.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2007-12-13

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Other Protection or Status | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Taxonomy

The brooksi subspecies of the Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus brooksi), sometimes called the Haida Gwaii Saw-whet Owl, occurs only in Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands) off the northwestern coast of British Columbia. Many of the behaviours and other adaptations of this subspecies differ from those of the subspecies A. a. acadicus (which is found in continental North America and closely adjacent islands), making these owls quite distinct from their continental counterpart.

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Description

Like the subspecies A. a. acadicus, the Northern Saw-whet Owl brooksi subspecies is a small owl about 20 cm in length. Overall, its buff plumage is darker than in the continental counterpart, with a more mottled look on the chest. The Northern Saw-Whet Owl has yellow to orange eyes and no ear tufts (the ear-like group of feathers on the sides of the head). It has a prominent, round facial disk, from which the ring of feathers around its face projects. In the brooksi subspecies, there is a major difference between the sexes, with females being larger than males.

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Distribution and Population

The acadicus subspecies of the Northern Saw-whet Owl is found across much of the United States and the southern half of Canada, but the brooksi subspecis is found only in the Haida Gwaii archipelago (the Queen Charlotte Islands) in British Columbia. This subspecies is not migratory. The brooksi subspecies has been recorded on both of the large islands of Haida Gwaii (Graham Island and Moresby Island) as well as on the smaller islands throughout the archipelago, at least in the breeding season. According to estimates based on measures of density in 2002 and 2003, there were approximately 1900 adults of the brooksi subspecies in the Queen Charlotte Islands. The projected decline for this population is roughly 9% by 2020.

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Habitat

During the breeding season, the brooksi subspecies is found primarily in mature and old forest habitats at elevations below 300 m close to riparian areas. These small owls use the abandoned nesting cavities of other species. These cavities, which are located in snags (dead trees or broken stumps of trees), must have an opening of at least 7.5 cm in diameter. On Haida Gwaii, suitable cavities are limited and are found more often in western hemlock and in Sitka spruce stands than in other species of trees. The habitat must also contain open areas for foraging. Due to forest harvest, the amount of suitable habitat declined by almost 13% from 1993 to 2006. The habitat requirements of the brooksi subspecies outside the breeding season are largely unknown, but evidence suggests that some move towards coastal areas to capitalize on a rich and accessible food source composed of marine invertebrates.

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Biology

The Northern Saw-whet Owl lives between five and seven years, and it starts breeding at one year. Although the timing of reproduction varies significantly from individual to individual, courtship activities tend to start in early March. No data on the fecundity of A. a. brooksi are available, but in the continental subspecies, the average clutch size is five to six eggs. The eggs are incubated and the young brooded solely by the female, while the male hunts and provides food for the female and nestlings. The young begin leaving the nest in June and July. The nests are located in cavities excavated primarily by woodpeckers. On Haida Gwaii, most cavities are probably excavated by northern flickers or hairy woodpeckers. The Northern Saw-whet Owl has several potential predators on Haida Gwaii, such as the American marten. However, since most of the predators are diurnal, they probably do not have a major impact on the numbers of owls, which are active primarily at night. Unlike the continental subspecies, the brooksi subspecies is not migratory.

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Threats

The breeding habitat of the Northern Saw-whet Owl appears to be associated with mature and old forest. The decline and degradation of this habitat are the main threats to the brooksi subspecies. Nesting and foraging habitat are declining due to forest harvest operations. As the species relies not only on snags, but also on primary cavity nesters, such as woodpeckers, for suitable nest cavities, habitat loss for a suite of species will therefore also affect this owl population. The introduction of Sitka black-tailed deer has led to a reduction in the diversity of plants and shrubs as a result of browsing by deer. This change in the forest habitat may affect songbird, rodent, and invertebrate populations, all important food sources for the Northern Saw-whet Owl. Haida Gwaii has experienced introductions of numerous species, some of which may directly threaten Northern Saw-whet Owls. Raccoons and red squirrels are possible nest predators, while European starlings are aggressive competitors for nest cavities. This species may harass owls and cause nest abandonment. Many Haida Gwaii Northern Saw-whet Owls apparently move to coastal areas to feed during the fall and winter, and at that time of year owls are hit by vehicles on the highway between Skidegate and Tlell.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Northern Saw-whet Owl brooksi subspecies is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Northern Saw-whet Owls in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve are protected from hunting, trafficking, or possession under the Canada National Parks Act.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Other Protection or Status

These owls are also listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which governs international trade in species that have been, or could be, threatened by commercial exploitation.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Northern Saw-whet Owl brooksi subspecies (Aegolius acadicus brooksi) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

13 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Northern Saw-whet Owl (brooksi) subspecies (Aegolius acadicus brooksi) in Canada (2018-10-15)

    The brooksi subspecies of Northern Saw-whet Owl is a small owl, about 20 cm in length. It has a relatively large head, with a prominent round facial disk and no ear tufts. Plumage is darker than in the continental acadicus subspecies, with an overall buffy appearance and dark stripes on the underparts. This endemic, non-migratory subspecies is found only on Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) in British Columbia. It is distinct from its continental counterpart in its behaviours, adaptations and genetics. Note: This COSEWIC assessment was received by the Minister on October 15th, 2018.
  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Northern Saw-whet Owl brooksi subspecies Aegolius acadicus brooksi in Canada (2006-08-29)

    The brooksi subspecies of Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus), sometimes called the Haida Gwaii Saw-whet Owl, is endemic to the Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands archipelago off the northwest coast of British Columbia. Like its continental counterpart (A. a. acadicus), this is a small owl about 20 cm in length. Overall, plumage is darker than in the nominate counterpart, having an overall buffy appearance with a more mottled look on the chest. Northern Saw-whet Owls have yellow eyes, a prominent round facial disk and no ear tufts.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Northern Saw-whet Owl brooksi subspecies (2019-01-11)

    This distinct subspecies endemic to Canada has a small population of fewer than 2000 breeding individuals, restricted to the islands of Haida Gwaii off the Pacific coast of British Columbia. It is a forest specialist, preferring older coniferous forests with abundant nesting snags and an open understory. Numbers of breeding birds are anticipated to further decline over the next 15 years as a consequence of ongoing forest harvesting. Other continuing low-level threats to this subspecies include problematic invasive, introduced and native species, accidental mortality from road collisions and effects of forest fires. As just over 70% of Haida Gwaii is now within protected areas reserved from forestry operations, including National Park Reserve, provincial park, and reserves under the Haida Gwaii Strategic Land Use Agreement, this subspecies is not at risk of imminent extinction.
  • Response Statements - Northern Saw-whet Owl brooksi subspecies (2006-11-29)

    This is a distinct subspecies endemic to Canada, with a small world population (ca. 1900 adults) restricted to the Queen Charlotte Islands. It is a forest specialist, preferring older forests with abundant nesting snags and an open understory in a landscape where such resources are continually becoming scarcer due to forest harvest.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Northern Saw-whet Owl brooksi subspecies (Aegolius acadicus brooksi) in Canada (2014-04-10)

    The Northern Saw-whet Owl, brooksi subspecies, (hereafter 'Saw-whet Owl') is an endemic subspecies to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). Saw-whet Owls are small, brown owls with broad reddish brown stripes on their chest. The brooksi subspecies was designated as Threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in April 2006 because they are a distinct subspecies endemic to Canada, have a small world population that is restricted to Haida Gwaii, and are a specialist of older forests that are declining in abundance because of threats such as forest harvest (COSEWIC 2006).

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site (2016-07-04)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site meets the requirements for an action plan set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA (s.47)) for species requiring an action plan that occur inside the boundary of the site. This action plan will be updated to more comprehensively include measures to conserve and recover the marine species at risk once the first integrated Land, Sea, People management plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve & Haida Heritage Site (hereafter called Gwaii Haanas) is complete. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in Gwaii Haanas.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2007) (2007-05-16)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of 40 species done pursuant to paragraph 15(1)(a) and in accordance with subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 141, number 26, December 13, 2007) (2007-12-26)

    Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2006 (2006-08-30)

    2006 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
  • COSEWIC Annual Report 2017 to 2018 (2018-10-15)

    Over the past year COSEWIC assessed a total of 90 wildlife species and 11 of these were assigned a status of Not at Risk. Of these 90, COSEWIC re-examined the status of 38 wildlife species; of these, the majority (87%) were reassessed at the same or lower level of risk. To date and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 771 wildlife species in various risk categories including 338 Endangered, 183 Threatened, 228 Special Concern, and 22 Extirpated (i.e. no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition, 18 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct, and a total of 59 wildlife species have also been designated as Data Deficient and 197 have been assessed and assigned Not at Risk status.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#GHE 2013-01), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2013-07-10)

    Rat eradication on Murchison and Faraday islands will be undertaken by an aerial broadcast of bait containing a brodifacoum rodenticide at a designated application rate across the two islands. Hand-broadcast of bait will also be required for smaller islets and where aerial broadcast is not appropriate or feasible. The project also requires the reduction of introduced hyperabundant Sitka Black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis) on the target islands prior to rat eradication implementation. Individuals of the following species, all listed under the Species at Risk Act, might be affected by the proposed activities: Northern Goshawk (laingi subspecies) (Threatened); Northern Saw-whet Owl (brooksi subspecies) (Threatened); and Ermine (haidarum subspecies - Queen Charlotte Islands population) (Threatened). Both bird species (Northern Goshawk and Northern Saw-whet Owl) are at risk of secondary poisoning resulting from predating / scavenging rats or passerines that have fed directly on the rodenticide bait

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act Terrestrial Species: December 2006 (2006-12-28)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list. Please submit your comments by March 16, 2007 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 14, 2008 for species undergoing extended consultations.
  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species January 2019 (2019-01-15)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection afforded by the prohibitions and from recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 580 wildlife species at risk. Please submit your comments by May 13, 2019, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations and by October 14, 2019, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please visit the Species at Risk (SAR) Public Registry website at: The Minister of the Environment's Response to Species at Risk Assessments.
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